tagMatureThe Marital Bed

The Marital Bed

byTx Tall Tales©

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He loves her family, one of them, perhaps too much.

Several years ago, I read Penasweapon's My Perverted Life, and it gave me an idea for a story, which I jotted down. It's taken quite a while to get it finished, my original notes are from 2010, so it's been percolating a while. The Alzheimer's and dementia described isn't wholly accurate, sadly, I'm familiar with what's it's really like, but I took a little artistic license to further the story. Please forgive me and I hope you enjoy it.

This is an entry in the 2015 Summer Lovin' contest.


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Let me say this up front. I love my wife. I adore her. Meeting her was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Hell, I love her whole family, who took me in and loved me like I was their son. They mean the world to me. Maybe that's how I got in this predicament.

I had nobody growing up. I was a foster kid, shunted around from home to home. I had difficulty relating to people, and trust was impossible. I had girls in high-school, and more in college. I enjoyed the relationships, and loved the sex even more. But none lasted very long. I had trust issues, I couldn't commit, and I was always suspicious. I guess I wasn't very good boyfriend material.

Somehow, Dana didn't understand that.

I met her in a study group. I was doing alright, but she was the star of the group. She was attractive in a nerdy kind of way, but goodhearted and kind.

I could write a hundred pages of how we came to be, but I would only look like an ass, and she'd get even more sympathy. Suffice it to say, I couldn't drive her off, no matter how rotten or inconsiderate I was. And she got to me like nobody ever did.

It's like the Jack Nicholson movie. She made me want to be a better man.

She had the patience of Job, and the persistence of Sisyphus. I couldn't understand why, but then again, I didn't understand love. It took her five long years to teach me.

She changed me. Made a man out of me. Not a manly jerk, but a real man. She wasn't alone in doing it. She had help.

Her mother adored me, God only knows why. Her father took to me like I was his long lost son and best buddy. He taught me the manly arts, which I'd never been privy to. We worked on cars, and I learned why an open end crescent wrench was called a knuckle buster. I found out how hard it was to get the grease out from under your nails, or how it tried to take up permanent residence in the wrinkles on your knuckles.

I learned there was more to alcohol than whatever was on tap, from Roger. Both he and his father, my wife's grandfather, took me out fishing for the first time. They were patient, and I trusted them enough that I wasn't afraid to look the fool. I learned the proper way to tie a fishing knot, the strange naming of hook sizes and how to select the right one, where to look for the fish, the times of day, the effect of weather, of storms, of warm spells. I learned how to set a hook after a nibble, and how to release a fish without hurting it, to be caught another day.

Dana's grandfather William, Bill, had been a carpenter. He welcomed me into his shop. The day after I got engaged he taught me how to use a lathe, a plane, a sander, the belt saw. He instructed me on the value of caring for your tools, how to sharpen a chisel and a saw blade. He showed me how a dovetail works, and how to build something that lasts. Roger would visit, and the three of us would talk, but it was my duty to do all the work. I'd listen to their advice, and practice on lesser pieces, while my masterpiece slowly evolved. Nine long months I worked on it whenever I could, more than half of that spent on the intricate carving. I finished with less than a week to go, all of their lessons coming together. I felt better about creating that one piece by hand than I had about anything I'd ever done in my entire life.

When I took my wife home, the night of our wedding, she knew what it was. She was speechless, and in tears.

"All yours?" she asked.

"Ours. All ours. Forever."

She took my hand, and pulled me along. The bed was massive, a four-poster, hand-crafted headboard, with our names carved into it. She ran her hand across the blank raised space beneath. "Our children?" she asked, her voice cracking.

I nodded. "I saw your father's. It's incredible."

She shook her head, pressing her face against the stained oak. "No, this one's even better. I can't believe you did this."

Dana let go of my hand, which she'd clutched from the moment we entered our bedroom, the huge king-sized bed filling most of the space. She ran her hands down the wood, following the curves of the six foot tall hand-turned posts. She inspected the joints, tested the drawers built into the frame, opened the chest which was attached to the foot of the bed. She looked under the lid, breathing in the cedar smell, examining where I'd tacked down the padded leather seat on top. Every little detail, she took her time to examine and praise. She found her father's sole contribution, on one end of the cedar chest, a carving of a man in a rocking chair, with a girl sleeping on his lap. She had to stop for a moment to get her tears under control. Her grandfather's addition was less subtle. An incredibly accurate portrait of my wife, her mother, and her grandmother, all around the same age, when they got married. They were beautiful women, and he captured them perfectly. I was jealous of his craft, and grateful for his tutelage.

It was their tradition, for the man to build his marital bed by hand, and to customize it for his wife. I had poured my love for her into the work, and it showed, in ways I could never verbalize.

She turned to me, her eyes shining, and hugged me. "You, Logan Sawyer, are worth every bit of fight it took me to land you," she said, smiling. "Now wait here."

She left me, confused, standing in my wedding tux, alone. She was only gone a minute, before she returned with a huge wrapped bundle, an inch wide red ribbon holding it shut. "My wedding gift to you."

I opened it, and found what she'd spent her time on while I was working on our bed. It was a huge hand-quilted bedspread. Many of the squares had needlepoint designs. All the dreams we had discussed were displayed, a large house with a white pipe fence, the New York City skyline, a beach sunset, the Eiffel tower, more than a dozen altogether. As I studied each one, recognizing the hours of labor that went into them, I was humbled. I started recognizing the tiny initials, indicating which ones her mother, her sister, and her grandmother had contributed. It was masterful. She showed me how it could be used to hold a down insert in the winter months, and used empty as a simple bedspread when it was warmer. I could see the pride when she pointed out the details I was too ignorant to understand. What I did know was that it was equal to the gift I'd given her, if not more.

She helped me remove the bedspread I'd bought. Her father's insistence that I buy something inexpensive, since she'd want her own linens and spreads, now made sense. We left the sheets on, but put our wedding quilt over the bed. We stepped back and took it in.

It was us.

I was the rough hard wood, slowly shaped into something worthy of her. Aided by her family. She was the beautiful quilt, dozens of different pieces I had slowly learned to understand, melded into a thing of beauty, all her secrets exposed. She covered me, hiding my faults, protecting me, completing me.

We had been lovers for over four years, but that night, on that bed, under that cover, it all changed. I was home.

Throughout our years together, that bed was our savior more times than I care to recall. When we'd fight, all we had to do was sit on our bed, reminded of the love and patience, our family, our goals, our intentions. I'd caress the spread, examining the new pieces she'd added over the years, our three children, the Alaska cruise, our favorite little B&B. She'd touch the headboard, with each new name carved in. I'd apologize; she'd insist she was wrong. And we'd forgive each other in her family's way, on that bed.

Most of the family get-togethers were at her grandparent's home. They had a big old house, with a huge chunk of land in the heart of the newest, most desirable suburb. It had been country when I met Dana. But the city had grown to absorb them. It was a place of serenity, in the middle of insane growth and bustling activity.

We met as a family often. Her sister had been married once, and had no children. Our three, two sons and a daughter were loved and spoiled enough for any dozen children. Her father, grandfather and I were best friends. We fished, we hunted, we worked in the garage, or in the old man's carpentry shop. I learned so much from them, I could never pay them back. They gave me something I'd never expected to have growing up, something I'd given up on. A family.

The women were good to me. Affectionate, caring, thoughtful, and protective of Dana and my relationship. When I fucked up, and it was more often than I care to admit, they would sit me down, and tell it like it is. They loved me enough to be brutally honest when needed, and to gently guide me when appropriate. I was reminded of our wedding quilt, which Dana studied regularly, looking for problems, fixing anything before it got too bad.

That was our marriage, and we had a loving family which helped ensure no string unraveled, no gaps appeared, and nothing was torn. Some might call it meddling, but I never considered it that. Alright, I might have on a few occasions, but I never dwelt on it. I understood it was done out of love.

I love my wife, and I loved her entire family, all three generations, as if they were my own, the family I never had, that welcomed me with open arms and filled a gap in my heart I hadn't known existed, until Dana.

* * *

We'd been married twelve years. I was thirty-seven, she was thirty-five. Our oldest, Bill, was eleven, Roger was nine, and our angel Caroline, named after Dana's mother, was six. My wife had fought me on the names, but it was one time when I wouldn't back down. I would honor the men and women who had raised her, and loved us, and I wouldn't set foot in our bedroom until it was settled, knowing how often I lost an argument once we were in bed.

I did give in a little on Caroline. I wanted to name her Dana, after my wife, and her grandmother who she was named after. She didn't want to name her daughter after herself, and offered Caroline, which was the one time I compromised.

Dana's father had just retired, and we were all concerned about our grandparents. Her grandmother seemed to be suffering from memory loss, and we were starting to see the first symptoms of Alzheimer's. It was devastating.

We did all the medical tests, visited an array of doctors, and tried different medications. They seemed to help a little, but it was sad to see her slipping away. We didn't talk around it, in denial. It was not our family's way. We were honest with her, and with each other, as much as it hurt.

We all helped where we could. Dana, her sister and her mother took over much of the cooking and cleaning, spending considerable time over there. The kids were weekend fixtures, and Grandma loved to have them around. Nothing made her happier.

Dad and I, along with the two namesakes, handled chores, yard work, errands, car work, whatever was needed. Grandpa always insisted he could handle it, but more and more of his time was being spent with Grandma. I worked from home much of my time, as a software contractor, and whenever an emergency popped up at the old homestead, I was happy to deal with it. We only lived a couple of miles away, in one of the new neighborhoods that seemed to pop up two or three times a year where we were.

The men still went out together, five of us now, for an occasional fishing trip, a day hike, or some hunting. I watched Dad and Grandpa impart their wisdom upon my boys, and I once again thanked my lucky stars that Dana never gave up on me, even when she probably should have.

Grandpa, at seventy-nine years old was spry and healthy as a horse. He still worked in his shop every day, and supplemented his retirement income with his artistry. They didn't need the money. When the city surrounded his property, he worked out a deal, donating twenty acres to the city for a park, and selling another sixty or so to developers, when the city put a road through his property. His house stood on the remaining twenty-seven acres, but his property taxes were waived for twenty years, and he still had a boat load of money left when he put two hundred grand into each of the children's college funds.

We were family, and we'd take care of each other. I had learned that from them, and took it to heart. I provided for my wife and family to the best of my ability, and always made time for her parents and grandparents. I never begrudged a minute of it. The few times I got irritated at having to change plans for their sakes, I remembered those months before I got married, and how they'd spent all their free time with me, while I toiled on our bed, under their watchful and supportive eyes. I might have been an asshole when she met me, but I like to believe I grew out of it.

The life changing call came from my mother-in-law, Caroline. She was good to me, but we never talked on the phone, other than for me to get Dana, or for her to summon Roger. I was surprised to get the call mid-day, Dana was at work.

"Logan?"

"Hi Mom, what's up?"

"D-d-d-daddy's dead," she said, and I could hear the tears in her words. "Momma's at home alone with him. Can you go over? You're the closest; I'm on my way."

"I'm leaving now. I'll be there in less than five minutes. I'm so sorry, Mom."

She was sobbing by this time. "I know, Honey. Take care of Momma, please."

I was the first to arrive, even before the ambulance, calling work and letting them know I'd be unavailable on the drive over. He had died in his shop, lying on the floor next to an unfinished chair he'd been working on. Grandma was sitting on the floor next to him, rocking back and forth, holding his hand. It broke my heart.

I opened the door to the garage, so the emergency people could come straight in. Then I sat down beside her, at a loss for what to do. I mean, seriously, what can you do? Her husband of 50 plus years was dead, growing cold at our feet. I put my arm around her waist, and sat with her.

Grandma had her good days, and her bad days. There was no doubt she knew exactly what was going on. "What am I gonna do, Logan?" she whispered. On her bad days, she never knew who I was. She was polite and would smile at me, but I'd hear her asking the others who the nice young man was. That day she looked into my eyes, hers brimming over with tears. "He's gone. My Billy is gone. It wasn't supposed to happen this way, Logan. What am I gonna do?"

"I ... I don't know, Grandma. He's the only Grandpa I ever had. I can't believe—"

The ambulance rolling up the driving way interrupted our thoughts. I pulled Grandma up and out of their way, to give the guys room. Then things got hectic. Roger came running through the yard, calling out for Grandma. Dana was only a couple of minutes behind him, and I had to start explaining things all over again. The police arrived, followed by Caroline, then Alice. Amidst the crying, talking, and carting Grandpa off, it became too much. I found a corner to sit quietly, and mourn the loss of a great man, who'd had almost as big an influence in my life as Dana. When Dana found me, she gave me a hug, and I was sent to pick up the kids and bring them back to the homestead.

The coroner said it was a massive heart attack. We had no idea he had any issues, hell, he seemed healthier than me. It struck me hard. I'd never had anyone I loved die, and I was pretty useless. Roger was not much better off, even though it was his wife's father. Lot of good we were, real men, who fell apart when most needed.

Our women were better, and my kids were troopers. They handled all the details. Grandma Dana couldn't do much, the shock seemed to have hit her hard, and her memory was going. Half the time she didn't recognize any of us, and when she was lucid, she was heartbroken. It pained us all to see her that way. At seventy-four years old, she looked like she was still in her early sixties. She was fit, and healthy, no blood-pressure issues, minimal arthritis, no problems other than she couldn't remember most of the last fifty years much of the time.

The funeral was held three days later, and I was happy to see what an effect the old man had on the community. There must have been over two hundred people there. A memorial was set up at the park they donated, with the children from the elementary school across the street let out for half a day. My mother-in-law spoke to them, about grandpa's life, and his love for his friends and family, that led him to provide a park for the community children. She talked about them being one of the oldest families in the area, and how Grandma's family built the old house, and kept goats and chickens, and grew crops. Even Grandma Dana was lucid enough to speak for a bit, about the importance of family, the best man she ever knew, and the best father and husband that could ever be.

I'll admit it. I cried like a baby.

To look at her, wearing a simple black dress, standing tall, her hair still mostly blonde and full, you'd never guess her age, or her problems. She was a testament to the adage of love keeping you young.

We were gathered in the living room, the day after the funeral, talking over what to do about Grandma.

It was obvious she couldn't live on her own, and nobody wanted to put her in a home. She'd lived in that house her entire life. It was her parent's before she married Grandpa. We couldn't take that from her.

We talked about hiring help, a nurse, a housekeeper, a landscaping company. But how would she handle all those people around her she didn't know?

I knew what the solution was, and wondered when they'd get around to mentioning it. After an hour or so, I realized nobody was going to put me on the spot like that.

I looked over at my wife, and took her hand. "We should move in. We can take care of her. I'm home most of the time. We could hire a little help, but it wouldn't have to be full time. She knows us, and she loves the kids. The kids will be out of school shortly, and we can use the summer to settle in. The answer seems obvious."

Dana squeezed my hand, tears in her eyes. "It's a lot to ask," she said softly.

"It's nothing. They've done so much for us, it's the least we can do for her. I want to do it."

It was Caroline who brought up the big question. "For how long? She's healthy as can be. She probably won't get better. You could be talking ten, fifteen, even twenty years. And what if she gets worse?"

They were all looking at me. We knew it was the right decision. Everyone there did. But I was the outsider, even after all those years. They were eager to have me argue their side, but none of them would push me. It was my decision.

I looked at Dana. "You want this don't you?"

She was quiet. "I don't want to force you—"

"No, Dana. For once, don't think of me. Tell me if you want this."

She nodded. "I do, but only—"

"Hush," I said, kissing her. "They're the only family I've ever had. I want to do anything I can for her. For him. I feel I have to. For his sake. I learned a lot from your father and grandfather, most importantly a man takes care of his family, first and foremost. She's my grandmother, the only one I ever knew. I want this very much. I ... I need to do this."

I looked up at the rest of the adults gathered. "I don't care how long it takes. She will never do without if I can help it. I would do the same for any of you, and I know you'd do the same for Dana and the kids. It's the obvious solution."

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byTx Tall Tales© 30 comments/ 86853 views/ 94 favorites

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